How Veterans may have been exposed
When a projectile made with DU penetrates a vehicle, small pieces of DU can scatter and become embedded in muscle and soft tissue. In addition to DU in wounds, soldiers exposed to DU in struck vehicles may inhale or swallow small airborne DU particles.
Some Gulf War, Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn Veterans who may have been exposed to DU are those who were: on, in or near vehicles hit with friendly fire; entering or near burning vehicles; near fires involving DU munitions; or salvaging damaged vehicles.
The US military uses tank armor and some bullets made with depleted uranium (DU) to penetrate enemy armored vehicles, and began using DU on a loarge scale during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
The process of manufactucturing enriched uranium from natural uranium used in nuclear reactors or weapons leaves "depleted" uranium. DU has 40% less radioactivity, but the same chemical toxicity as natural uranium.
Health problems associated with DU
DU is a potential health hazard if it enters the body, such as through embedded fragments, contaminated wounds, and inhalation or ingestion. Simply riding in a vehicle with DU weapons or shielding will not expose a service member to significant amounts of DU or external radiation.
The potential for health effects from internal exposure is related to the amount of DU that enters a person's body. If DU enters the body, it may remain in the body. Studies show high doses may especially affect the kidneys.